Al Pacino Closed My Bike Lane

It’s the classic urban cycling problem: when faced with the indignities of riding in a car-centric city like Los Angeles, do you make it all one big fun challenge or become what Bikesnob calls “the righteous cyclist?”  Righteous cyclists, according to Bikesnob, are “convinced that the very act of turning the pedals will actually restore acres and acres of rainforest, suck smog from the sky and refreeze the ice caps.” In short they are sometimes so obsessed with the issues surrounding cycling that they fail to enjoy actually, well, cycling.

So one rainy day earlier this month, heading down busy Sunset Boulevard, I came upon a film crew blocking the bike lane. This happens fairly often, especially at this section of Sunset. Your choice is to hop on the sidewalk, rarely a good idea in my opinion, or merge into fast moving traffic.

Normally, I take the stoic approach and treat a situation like this as a challenge, an opportunity to practice living in a real life version of Frogger, somewhat like Laird Hamilton might treat a particularly gnarly big wave. But on this dark and rainy morning, I thought I owed it to any cyclist pedaling behind me to try to do something about the situation. So, acting the role of the righteous cyclist, I rode up to the security guard and asked if the film permit specified a bike lane closure. He said he’d get the production manager for me.

The production manager introduced himself and I said hello. I again asked if the film permit allowed for the closure of the bike lane. He said no, that it allowed for the closure of the “curb lane” and that it was not his fault that the curb lane was too narrow to fit his trucks. He said that originally the trucks were supposed to be parked elsewhere but that the “talent didn’t want to cross the street.”* The “talent,” I later found out, was Al Pacino, Christopher Walken and Alan Arkin. He also said that film companies only need a permit to close the “special green bike lanes downtown” (not true).

I decided to keep my cool. What I really wanted to say at this point was something along the lines of “you Hollywood folks haven’t made a decent movie in around 30 years.” And, “I want to put Lars Von Trier in charge and force you all to go Dogma 95–then I’d have my friken’ bike lane back, not to mention decent movies.”

But I kept my cool. I thanked him for his precious Hollywood time and rode off, promising to take it up with the entity that issues the permits, Film LA.

First though, I called my friend Colin Bogart at the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition. He called the police who looked up the permit and found out that, indeed, this film company did not have a permit to block the bike lane.

Now, on my last trip to Portland during our book tour I snapped a picture of what happens in that city when a truck blocks the bike lane. Portlandians put up some cones to route cyclists around work vehicles:

Now here’s how we do it in Los Angeles. LAPD heads down to the location and finds out that they don’t have a permit to block the lane. Then, I’m guessing, Al Pacino comes out to sign some autographs and we get a “compromise”:

The bike lane was still closed, cyclists still had to merge into fast moving traffic, but we got a bunch of “bike lane closed” signs. Problem solved! Note the production manager on the right, none to happy to see me again. I resisted the urge to ask him if he thought he was John-Luc Fricken’ Godard.

So the Sunset Boulevard bike lane remained closed for three days all for yet another crappy Hollywood action movie. I may make my boycott permanent.

Should anyone in a position of power being reading this post, this closure was against the state’s traffic rules, “Section 6D.101(CA) Bicycle Considerations . . . E. Bicyclists shall not be led into direct conflicts with mainline traffic, work site vehicles, or equipment moving through or around the [work] zone.” 

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* Note from the Mrs.: Perhaps Messrs Pacino and Walken didn’t want to cross the street because they’ve heard that we had two tragic pedestrian fatalities in the immediate neighborhood last month. Both of those persons were simply attempting to cross the street. They died because our city streets could be mistaken for freeways.

Cargo Bike Roundup

First, thanks all, for your help with my cargo bike review that I’m writing for Urban Farm Magazine. For those of you not familiar with the new crop of cargo bikes here’s what I’m writing about:

Longtail Bikes

Xtracycle FreeRadical

The “longtail” revolution began with the invention of the Xtracycle “FreeRadical” back in 1998. The FreeRadical extends the back wheel and allows for the installation of two huge pannier bags and a seat. You provide the bike–I used a cheap 1980s era hardtail mountain bike. I’ve had my FreeRadical since 2006 and can’t say enough good things about it. I can easily pack four bags of groceriesin the generously sized bags and still easily glide through traffic in Los Angeles. And I’ve used it to go bike camping.

A few years ago Xtracycle teamed with Surley to make the “Big Dummy” a bike frame with a FreeRadical welded in. This reduces the shimmy under load that happens sometimes with a DIY FreeRadical/bike combo. Xtracycle also started producing their own bike/Free Radical combo called the Radish.

Yuba Mundo 21 Speed

Some other companies have since introduced products very similar to the Big Dummy and Radish. One that I really like is the Yuba Mundo. It’a a very sturdy bike with fenders and a two-legged kickstand.

Kona Ute

There’s also the Kona Ute.

Trek Transport

And, in this now crowded longtail market, the Trek Transport.


Bike Trucks

Cetma Cargo

If you can afford one, these are probably the best option for hauling kids. Your cargo or passengers have a lower center of gravity (important especially as those kids grow). Plus, with the passenger seat up front, you can keep an eye on them!

Other Options I’m not Reviewing

When I visited Copenhagen a few years ago I saw a lot of big cargo trikes like the Christiania Trike above. I’m not looking at these because I have my doubts about how practical they are in most US cities. We just don’t have the kind of bike infrastructure they have in Northern Europe. Plus, a lot of Root Simple readers wrote to tell me they don’t handle well on turns. Please correct me if you think I’m wrong. I’m also not considering trailers, because that would be another article.

While not cheap, all of these bikes are less spendy than a fancy carbon fiber racing bike and a lot more useful. My Xtracycle has allowed us to get by with just one car between me and Kelly. While I realize that cargo bikes aren’t practical for everyone, I suspect we’ll be seeing more of these beasts on the road soon.

And, a bit of a tangent here, but if you don’t know the story of Freetown Christiania, where the Christiania bike is made, it’s entertaining.

Seeking Opinions for a Cargo Bike Review

A Christiania trike

I’m reviewing a few cargo bikes for Urban Farm Magazine and I’m interested in hearing opinions from you, our dear readers. Leave a comment or send me an email. Let me know what cargo bike you have and what you think about it. What do you haul? Did you give up a car? Note: I’m not reviewing trailers, just cargo bikes.

I have an Xtracycle that I’ve used for years and am very happy with. But there’s a lot of new options out there.

In Seattle, Headed to Portland

Photo from bikejuju.com

Dig that tallbike, welded up by our host in Seattle Tom, a.k.a. “bikejuju” who has a blog at www.bikejuju.com. His wife Lyanda is the author of a book readers of this blog will enjoy, Crow Planet: Essential Wisdom from the Urban Wilderness. And they have the prettiest mixte I’ve ever seen in their living room.

This afternoon we head to Portland. Hope to see you at one of our appearances.

Mad Hen

One of our hens will be featured in the new Coco’s Variety ad campaign. What’s Coco’s Variety you ask?

“Coco’s Variety’s primary business is bicycles. Additionally, we sell Japanese figural pencil erasers, used bike parts, old toolboxes, books worth owning, bike pumps, balsa wood gliders, pocket knives, Lodge cast iron frying pans, glass water bottles, Park bicycle tools, wicker bike baskets and Dutch bicycle cargo bags for the carting of fresh produce, the transportation of books of French poetry and the rescuing of kittens.”

If you’re not in Los Angeles, you can get a virtual Coco’s experience on their awesome blog at: http://www.cocosvariety.com/.

Via the magic of the interwebs we offer you an exclusive behind the scenes look at Coco’s proprietor Mr. Jalopy making advertising history:

Piano Bike

Seen in San Francisco during this past weekend’s street closin’ party Sunday Streets, an upright piano bike. Not only did this guy play while peddling, but he was also a damn good musician. He said it took several years to perfect the bike which, while you might not be able to tell from the photo, was nicely crafted. Not sure about the steering but it seemed to be by pushing the keyboard itself. This may have influenced the choice of a ragtimey repertoire. Also kinda funny to have a musical performance affected by potholes.

It seems that this is an old vaudeville stunt.

Yet more reasons not to wear lycra

Towards a more bikable/walkable US on this 4th of July, a nice quote about America’s silly relationship with cycling from bikesnobnyc:

“I may be naive, but I continue to believe that one day humanity will reach a point at which we will no longer need to feel special while we do something normal. Putting on pants will cease to be the subject of a feature article. The notion of a “bike culture” will dissolve like body paint in the rain. Riding a bicycle in street clothes will no longer be “cycle chic.” Best of all, we will no longer need to be cultural aspirants or fashion models to ride to the store, and the simple act of buying something at that store will not need to be a statement about “sustainability.” Instead, we will be regular schlubs doing regular crap, and we will be confident enough to do so without naming it and without baring our inner thigh sideburns in the process.”

An Earth Day Rant

There’s a logical fallacy called argumentum ad novitatem or the appeal to novelty, i.e. if something is new and clever it must be worthy of attention. It’s the fallacy that the mainstream media inevitability falls into when discussing bicycles. Witness an article in the LA Times, Going Beyond the Basic Bike, wherein we learned about the treadmill bike pictured above–a bargain at $2,011–the kids can use it in a science fair project to simulate inefficient energy transfer! But they’ll also have to bust out the Foucault and Baudrillard to explain how a simulation of running becomes a means of locomotion. [Update: a reader points out that the treadmill bike is a joke--kinda proves my point considering that the LA Times took it seriously.]
 

The article goes on to, I suspect, regurgitate a press release the Tribune Company received from the inventors of the StreetStrider, “Only $1,699″ with “special financing available.” I bet the folks at Goldman Sachs are busy packaging that financing right now.

Then we have the RowBike, created by Scott Olson, “inventor of the Rollerblade,” the RowBike is yours for a cool $1,188.

Memo to the Times: I can guarantee that anyone foolish enough to buy any of these things will soon relegate them to the dusty rear of the garage along with other late night infomercial impulse purchases.Now, can we please, for once, have a review of a practical, inexpensive commuter bike in a mainstream publication? Even the bicycling magazines get caught in the novelty of $30,000 carbon fiber road bikes. Can we treat the bike reviews with the same level of seriousness and utility that we do cars and computer reviews? Can we drop all the other “green” argumentum ad novitatem, such as endless stories about vertical vegetable gardens and algae energy schemes while we’re at it?